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Torpedo Town Free Festival.

Part 3.

7-10th August 1992.

Otterbourne Hampshire.



The rave on the hill, right next to the incinerator that was the cause of much heartache. © Pekoe Grungy

Courtesy Steve Bubble, drawing © Pete Loveday

Steve Bubbles account of his ordeal regarding the 1992 festival.

7-10 August 1992. Romsey and Poles Lane, Otterbourne Hampshire .

Once again planning started early for the next one! Sites checked out, band and stages contacted and a dozen Special Branch officers arrived at the little reprographics cum stationary shop that I worked at, one lunchtime a week before the festival. The shop was turned over, artwork was found – the original poster for that year… I was in trouble!

They wanted to search my house, but my girlfriend was due to go to work and I almost persuaded them to wait until she had, I explained that she wouldn’t be happy and that I didn’t want to stress her out – they took me to a police station near Fratton in Portsmouth, before changing their minds and dragging me home to turn it over and upset Annette!

My heart was in my mouth as they searched, I had hundreds of flyers for the festival hidden on a shelf, that they missed by millimetres – I was denying any responsibility for any involvement in "organising" anything. We were then on the move, this time to another police cell in Alton, about 30 miles up the road where I was charged with "Conspiracy to cause a public nuisance", the charge that Spiral Tribe were infamously faced with a year later.

The journey to Alton was full of questions, revolving around anarchism, due to the literature and the pile of Green Anarchism magazines they had discovered at my house. I evaded the philosophical debate as much as I could, realising that they were tring to get into my head and managed to stay silent, mainly.

I was to maintain my right to silence throughout the repeated bouts of questioning, sticking to my story that I wasn’t an organiser, using the "Friends of Torpedo Town" contact address title as my line of defence – I was merely "helping" to find a site away from peoples houses and make sure that welfare teams and emergency services were onsite – the festival list was nothing to do with me, and the date was set by someone unknown, as were the other festies, I stated.

What I hadn’t realised, was that there were friends in cells nearby, Kev had brought the mail for the festival down to the stationery shop where I worked and been followed from the alternative wholefood store "Time for Change" where the mail was delivered, to me, and was seen handing over the pile of envelopes by one of my questioners. The Special Branch copper asked if I remembered him asking for a specific item as he stood in the shop, of course, I did remember at this point, and worried how much surveillance they’d actually carried out. This was kev’s only involvement, but they were trying to get evidence for the conspiracy charge to stick. Another person in the cells was the poor owner of the shop – who had nothing whatsoever to do with the festival at all, other than letting us use the shop as a care of address…. I wish I’d known they were in adjoing cells tho!

Home office permission was granted to allow questioning to continue for a second day, as suspects could at that time only be held for 24 hours, at this point I realised that I was in potentially serious trouble, and maintained my silence. There was no solicitor around to help, I was allowed to speak to one on the phone, who agreed that I should maintain my silence and get a proper solicitor asap.

My girlfriend was in complete panic by the time she had left work and called friends, no-one could find me – the police refused to say where I was for hours - I think they called Release, who managed to track me down and she arrived at the police station and after persistently being told no, was allowed eventually to see me.

Having seized my address book and electronic organiser, the police proceeded to call every band and contact and tell them that the plug had been pulled, that I had cancelled the festival.

Nice birds eye view of the site © Pekoe Grungy

The questioning was going nowhere, the police told me that I would appear in court the next day and would be sent to Winchester prison for the next week or so, I panicked and told them that I was unable to do anything regarding the festival and that it was now out of my hands – I couldn’t stop it and that they were now responsible for what happened. They changed their minds – unless they had never intended to try and get me put inside (probably more likely, in retrospect), and instead asked the judge that I be put under curfew – so I was made to report to a police station 3 times a day and was not allowed to have anything to do with the festival and must stay in my house from 8pm until 8 am. I had no choice but to agree.

© Pekoe Grungy

By the time I was released there were 2 massive sites in Hampshire, one near Romsey, the other was Otterbourne, both near Winchester. Police were fighting pitched battles in the lane approaching the Otterbourne site as they tried to prevent more travellers and festival goers who were still arriving getting to the 2 festivals that were now taking place!

© Pekoe Grungy

Despite the High Court injunctions and my rather stringent bail conditions, I duly signed in at the local police station, went home, shaved off my dreadlocks and blagged a lift after dark fall off a visiting friend and headed off to Otterbourne. It was chaotic in the vicinity, police had managed seal the site by this time, preventing more vehicles entering, but we parked with hundreds of other vehicles that were abandoned on the roadsides and headed for the sounds of music. It was a miserable night, weather-wise, drizzly and wet, but the size of the gathering was huge, probably about 20,000, and this was one of two sites!!

Grooove Powah ! © Pekoe Grungy

I stayed a few hours into the night before slipping away, but not before I’d had an explore of the council recycling centre that the festival was right next to, climbing over the vast piles of bottles and other salvageable materials, interesting!

The next morning as I slugged on my coffee before I visited the police station round the corner, I switched on the TV, to discover the headline that travellers had burned down a council incinerator…. In the very same placed I’d climbed all over – I was sure I was being set-up, paranoia kicked in as I headed out to see the police!

Bugger.... © Pekoe Grungy

A small crowd watches as the local firemen put out the fire . © Pekoe Grungy

 

It was to emerge later in the morning that a 15 year old from the midlands, I think, had set fire to the portacabin next to the incinerator – so the damage, that the tabloids screamed from their front pages and the 6 o’clock news cost 1 million pounds was actually about 20 000 pounds worth, but the damage had been done, it felt like the end, particularly after the media uproar following the Castlemorton Free Festival!

The smoldering portacabin . © Pekoe Grungy


This was, actually, the last proper free festival in the uk, no-one wanted to do the list of summer festivals anymore, the risks to personal freedom were too great, the police were watching everyone.

I ended up with three appeals at the High Court in London with "Rubbish" Martin who got arrested and injuncted regarding Torpedo Town despite having little involvement. He used to do the festy lists and ran a phone line providing up to the minute festival info. Initially our injunctions were overturned with the judge telling the council that they couldn’t expect to have an injunction on people that lasted for a lifetime, our point exactly! Our defense quoted part of the Magna Carta, the part that states that no free man shall be shackled unless judged by his peers, or something along those lines… and as we hadn’t been able to argue or defend against the accusations made by the council. But we’d won, we were amazed it had been so quick and easy.

Der polis man a roadblock © Pekoe Grungy

 

A veritable plethora of trucks ! © Pekoe Grungy

Der Polis serve an eviction notice ..... photo courtesy Steve Bubble

This decision was soon to be overturned, following the council’s own appeal and the injunctions were reinstated as before. There were 3 business judges on this one – who are used to dealing with long lasting injunctions in business, apparently.

We appealed against this decision, of course, but when our date came up, rather conveniently – I’d just been arrested whilst Otterbourne and Romsey were being invaded… obviously I was guilty as I was under arrest, we lost that appeal.

The following year, our case was to go to the house of lords as this was an untested point of law, regarding perpetual and everlasting injunctions without trial. At this point our legal aid was withdrawn – I think the authorities were determined that this wasn’t to go any further and we ended up in court undefended without a barrister and losing, with costs of a quarter of a million quid awarded against us, though I’m pleased to say that this was never actually claimed – I think they knew they’d pushed this to the legal and moral limits.
I still have the injunctions against me to this day
.

Steve Bubble


More on 1992.

Hampshire police attempt to prevent another large festival taking place - 200 police confront travellers and Sound System People , the gatherings taking place on two separate sites due to the police preventing them from joining up . The Poles Lane event is soured by a council incinerator building being torched -although it is never proven that the damage was caused by festival goers .Interestingly, there was no trouble the year before when the police did NOT intervene, indicating that it was probably better to simply leave the festival goers to their own devices and to tolerantly police the events .

They just kept on arriving © Pekoe Grungy

The main action moved to Castlemorton which exceeded 25,000 in number .

The plod encircle Nicks bus." We've got you hippies surrounded .... come out with your hands up ...." © Pekoe Grungy

Report on Torpedo Town 1992 from a Christian group advises tolerance

Take Romsey in Hampshire for example. In a situation of near anarchy, an invasion of 8,000 or so travellers defeated the combined police forces of Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Wiltshire, and Dorset,and succeeded in staging their ‘music’ festival. "We have no doubt that we stopped a free festival which could have attracted 20,000 people," a Hampshire police spokesman said. "It could have been considerably worse if we had not acted."

Engendered with fear and anxiety, the inhabitants of Romsey were disgruntled to witness a mass invasion of their personal liberties by people supported by their taxes. "I think the thing that sticks in the craw of most people more than anything is that they are sitting at home with their homes and property at risk," suggested Mr Michael Colvin, MP for Romsey and Waterside. The absence of respect for property or the rights of others, the illegality of their lifestyle, and the general inconvenience caused by them, has detached society from these travellers. But established society’s opinion of them has also distanced the travellers from society.

Not all travellers are completely alienated from society. Fred Newman, a traveller who has worked on a flower farm for three years in Crowlas, Cornwall, has virtually been accepted as a member of the local community. "If I go down to the local village every one seems very nice," he says. In a similar way, if the invasion of Romsey had resulted in a permanent existence of travellers at the Chivers Pit site, then the local Churches, with active social programmes for the ‘needy and neglected’, would have tried to achieve reconciliation. "Romsey was hit by this ‘invasion’ on a Friday night and by Monday morning everyone had left. There was no chance to come to grips with them," explained Rev. L. Catterall of the Catholic Church.

The revelling party-going travellers, waxing and waning like the moon, place a time constraint on the local 'host' community, making it difficult for it to respond in an organised fashion. But Christians should consider integrating these free spirits into their social programmes to achieve true social justice and reconciliation.

© Pekoe Grungy

Joyriders crushed a gas cannister. © Pekoe Grungy

© Pekoe Grungy

Leaving late at night © Pekoe Grungy

     
1982-86
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1992

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Free festivals and small fayres held in the United Kingdom between 1967-90.

1967-69.

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  • Windsor Peoples Free Festival 1972-74
 
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The aroma of a free festival -by Roger Hutchinson

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Travellers Tales Convoy Steve's tale of how the freaks outsmarted the fuzz at Greenham common.

Zorch -House band for the free festival set ? A fanzine page on the UK's first electronic band .

Tibetan Ukranian Mountain Troupe-surreal pranksters of the Traveller community .

Acidia Lightshow Lightshow for Windsor festival and Stonehenge in the 1970s.

Traveller Daves Website - Chock full of of free festival photos !

Many, many thanks go to Roger Hutchinson , Big Steve , Roger Duncan, Celia, Will , Chazz, Jeza ,Chris Hewitt ,The Fabulous Time Tortoise , Peter Piwowarski - ( 70s music site/photos ) Martin S, Steve Austin ,Traveller Dave, Herb, Tim Brighton, Vin Miles, Haze Evans , Noddy Guevara, Chris Brown, Janet Thompson, David Stooke, Gary Gibbons , Nigel Ayers, Rich Deakin ,Glenda Pescardo,Justin Warman,Brian F, Steve Bayfield, Kev Ellis, Paul Seaton and many other minor contributors for their help in providing the archival material related to these free festivals which has at enabled us to construct the site .

Any info to add ?-well don't just sit there , Contact us


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